Older adults who took a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement with zinc (10 mg) and high amounts of vitamin C (1000 mg) experienced sickness (e.g., the common cold) for shorter periods and with less severe symptoms than their counterparts in a control group who took a placebo pill.
The small study, conducted by scientists from Oregon State University, involved 42 healthy people ages 55 to 75, and was designed to measure the supplement's effects on certain immune system indicators. It also looked at blood levels of zinc and vitamins C and D while taking the supplement, nutrients important for proper immune function.
The multivitamin group showed improved vitamin C and zinc blood levels. Illness symptoms reported by this group were less severe and went away faster than those experienced by the placebo group.
The same percentage of participants in each group reported symptoms, but days of sickness in the supplement group averaged fewer than three compared to more than six for the placebo group.
The immune indicators, including white blood cells' ability to kill incoming pathogens, were unaltered in the group receiving the supplement.
Vitamins, minerals and immune function
As people get older, the risk of vitamin and mineral deficiencies that contribute to age-related immune system deficiencies rises. Across the United States, Canada and Europe, research suggests more than one-third of older adults are deficient in at least one micronutrient, often more than one.
The researchers contend that such deficiencies likely contribute to a decline in the immune system, often characterized by increased levels of inflammation, reduced immune function and reduced functioning of certain infection-fighting immune cells.
Since many nutrients support immune function, older adults may benefit from taking a daily multivitamin and mineral supplement.
The multivitamin supplement used in the study focused on vitamins and minerals typically thought to help immunity. It contained 700 micrograms of vitamin A; 400 international units of vitamin D; 45 milligrams of vitamin E; 6.6 milligrams of vitamin B6; 400 micrograms of folate; 9.6 micrograms of vitamin B12; 1,000 milligrams of vitamin C; 5 milligrams of iron; 0.9 milligrams of copper; 10 milligrams of zinc; and 110 micrograms of selenium.
Source: Nutrients, August 14, 2020.
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